Blog Date: 
Thursday, February 19, 2015
Author: 
Karl Belanger
Categories: 

The Cosmo Electronic Brailler and BERT (Braille Education Remote Training) software are produced and sold by Electronic Brailler LLC. The Cosmo is a Braille writer with several electronic functions, including acting as an input keyboard and embosser for the Duxbury Braille Translator, and working in conjunction with the BERT software. BERT is an online tool, also from Electronic Braillerthat allows a teacher to teach up to 15 students simultaneously over the internet. Teachers can have class discussions by the teacher typing into the computer using six-key entry, and the text will be Brailled on the students’ Cosmo. The software also allows the uploading and completion of assignments, which can then be archived for future reference.

Cosmo Electronic Brailler

The Cosmo Brailler is a sturdy, well-built Braille writer. It measures 14.5 inches wide, by 12.25 inches deep by 4.5 inches high, and weighs about 10 pounds. On the top surface, you have a standard Braille keyboard, including Backspace, Enter, and two function keys to either side of the spacebar. The left side has a power switch, and the right side is empty. At the top rear of the unit, similar to other Braille writers, is where the paper comes out of the unit. Below this, about two thirds of the way down the device, is the paper feed slot. Below this toward the left corner is an AC adapter jack and a USB type B port. The Cosmo accepts 8.5x11 paper only. The paper is inserted through the slot in the back of the device. Push the paper in as far as it will go, then press the two function keys to have the paper loaded. Once the paper is loaded, typing on the keyboard will, if the unit is in stand-alone mode, cause Braille to be embossed on the paper. The Cosmo is different from other Braille writers in that the dots are pushed up through the paper from below, against a bar that runs across the top of the unit. This has the benefit of making the Cosmo significantly quieter than other electronic Braillers or embossers. As it is not possible to feel the embossing head directly, there is a small extension that sticks out underneath the page that allows the detection of the cursor position. To read what has been typed, press Space-Enter. The paper will scroll down a few lines, exposing the Braille. Press any key and the document will return to its original position, ready for continued typing. To erase a character, press Backspace-Space. It is possible to type faster than the Cosmo can emboss, so the Cosmo will keep a buffer of typed characters, so that it can catch up. In the event of a paper jam, there is a door on the bottom of the unit that allows the user to access to the paper feed. There are also five screws on the bottom which can be removed to allow the keyboard to be taken out of the Cosmo for cleaning.

Using the Cosmo with a computer

Once the Cosmo is plugged into a Windows computer, it can be used as a keyboard and embosser with Duxbury, or with the BERT software. When in Duxbury, it is possible to write in Braille using the keyboard on the Cosmo, as well as enter and navigate the menus. Navigating the menus uses commands which users of note takers such as the BrailleNote or Braille Sense will be familiar with. The key to the left of the spacebar acts as an Alt key. Space-Dot1 and Space-Dot4 move up and down the menu, and Enter selects an option. Once in a dialog, Space-Dot4-Dot5 and Space-Dot1-Dot2 emulate Tab and Shift-Tab respectively. Embossing works similarly to any other embosser. Once one page is complete, the Cosmo waits for the next page to be loaded before continuing.

BERT

BERT (Braille Education Remote Training) is a Braille distance learning tool that works in tandem with the Cosmo Brailler. There are two portions, teacher and student. Which edition you use depends on the login credentials. The interface of BERT is straightforward, consisting primarily of a tab control, edit boxes where input and output are displayed, plus a quit button. Some tabs contain other controls such as a list of students in the classroom tab of the teacher edition, or the upload controls in the assignments tab. The interface reads well with  screen access software, with only one or two oddly labeled controls in the assignments tab.
The classroom module is where a teacher can invite students to participate in a lesson or discussion. If a teacher has invited the student into a class, the student has the ability to type into their Cosmo and the typed text will appear on the teacher’s screen in Braille. Additionally, all text in both directions will be embossed using the Cosmo, to provide a transcript of the lesson. If a page fills, the Cosmo will buffer any further text until a new page is loaded, at which point it will be transcribed. Video chat via Skype is also suggested, as it can allow a teacher to see a younger student’s hands while they are typing, and allow live discussion between the teacher and students. Either party can use a refreshable Braille display with JAWS or other screen access software to both read the other person’s input, as well as type in Braille into the software.
BERT also contains assignment tabs, where a teacher can upload assignments for the students to complete. A student can then download the Braille file, complete the assignment, and then upload the completed assignment for the teacher to grade. The completed assignments are then archived for future review.

Conclusion

The Cosmo Brailler is an excellent device for anyone who needs a step up from a basic mechanical Braille writer. Its quiet operation means it is much less distracting in a classroom or other quiet setting. Its ability to connect to Duxbury can enable a blind student to emboss assignments or short documents without the need for another expensive device, or allow Braille entry into a document that will be shared with a teacher. The BERT software is a great tool for learning Braille remotely, and the ability to output the live discussion through the Cosmo is a nice touch.

Pricing

The Cosmo Brailler costs $2,495. There is also an optional battery pack which can provide up to 48 hours of use per charge. The Cosmo also comes with a two-year manufacturer warranty. The BERT software costs $995 per student for the first year, and $595 per year per student after that. There is no cost for the teacher edition.
More information can be found at http://www.ebrailler.com/